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Oracle to pitch video streaming

Oracle seems to be battling Microsoft on all fronts these days. Now you can add streaming video to the list.

Oracle (ORCL) seems to be battling Microsoft (MSFT) on all fronts these days. Now you can add streaming video to the list.

The company will announce next Monday that it is proposing a standard for connecting video encoders and servers for delivering real-time digital video broadcasts, which analysts say is the first signal that Oracle is positioning its video software to compete against Internet video market leaders, such as Progressive Networks.

Oracle will propose the Video Encoding Standard API, a way for makers of video encoder equipment, such as Lucent and Optibase, to integrate with back-end video servers from Oracle, Silicon Graphics, and Hewlett-Packard, according to Laurie Mann, director of product management for media products at Oracle.

While the standard announcement by itself does not put Oracle in direct competition with Microsoft or Progressive (which currently does not support real-time video), the proposal sets up a future head-to-head clash over who controls video delivery platforms, analysts said.

Last month, Microsoft announced that it was making a ten percent investment in Progressive and that the companies will support each other's streaming media technology. Microsoft will integrate Progressive's RealAudio and RealVideo 4.0 into its NetShow streaming server.

"Oracle currently does not have a low bitstream 28.8-kbps product that competes with Progressive," said Carl Lehman, an analyst with Meta Group. "But they are working on this for delivery by year's end, and that will put them into a competitive position" with Progressive and Microsoft.

Microsoft is attempting to consolidate the streaming media market around its Active Streaming Format specification. Today, the company acquired video streaming technology maker VXtreme. (See related story)

Oracle's Mann downplayed the competitive angle of his company's announcement. "This is not head-to-head competition. Lots of people competing on the low end. We do support video delivery across the Net. But most people use it to deliver training, ITV, across broadband and LANs."

But Lehman said the announcement of the encoding standard puts Oracle in a strong position. "This lets Oracle become this big analog-to-digital converter in the Net and take a variety of different video sources and ship them over the wire. They compete with a range of companies with their video server software, including Vivo and Progressive. This is a component of an architecture that can provide a variety of Net solutions."

Version 1.0 of the VES API is included as part of Oracle's Video Server software development kit, and it is also posted to Oracle's Web site.